Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Self-serving pomposity

Kevin DeYoung reconsiders the thesis of a book I read soon after its publication, Elton Trueblood's The Humor of Christ (1964):
.... Trueblood, who pays close attention to the gospel narratives and dialogues, makes a convincing case that Christ often used irony, purposeful exaggeration, and humorous parables, and knew how to engage in witty conversations where he gave as good as he got.

In particular, Trueblood argues, Jesus exemplified the great virtue of helping others to laugh at vanity. Because humans are given the gift of self-consciousness, we are prone to pride and vanity. But with this self-consciousness also comes the ability to laugh at conceit.
Christ was demonstrating one of the universal elements of His humor when He served the cause of true religion by exposing the pompous person whose profession far exceeds his practice....Vanity is a great weakness of mankind in general, but it seems especially ludicrous when it appears among the professionally religious. The contradiction between man’s humility before God and his strutting before men is a perfect opening for ridicule, and Jesus employed it to perfection in the twenty-third chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. (35-36)
Satire, sarcasm, irony, hyperbole–these are dangerous weapons, only to be wielded in spiritual warfare with caution and with great aplomb. But they are to be wielded at times. To poke fun at the oh-so-important, the perpetually offended, and the self-righteously sentimental can be good, godly work. When it comes to poking at the pretensions of the proud, laughter is often the best medicine. Vanity cannot be reasoned with, but it can be mocked. In the presence of overwrought solemnity and self-serving pomposity, Christ shows that a little humor goes a long ways.  [more]
And, of course, we are often (I am often) in the position of the one who needed to be mocked.

Another of Trueblood's books I appreciated was A Place to Stand.